I will start by saying: I am in a mood. Read at your own risk.
Feminism. After about a heartbeat of fear of claiming this word (and I do truly mean a heartbeat…and that’s after growing up with mockery of women burning their bras and a bunch of other misogyny in my family), I was so entirely PSYCHED to call myself a feminist. When I got political, when I testified against the statute of limitation for sexual offenses, when I marched, when I fund-raised, when I gave money, when I worked professionally in the community, my heart cracked against the bones of my chest. I was that proud. To be a woman working for equality. Because I believed that I deserved it. That we all did.
Of course, I am also queer. And my partner is gender non-conforming. And I’ve got to tell you, that as I and we worked for choice, for women’s rights, I couldn’t help but notice the way straight women, straight feminists, reacted to my partner. Their discomfort with her. Their easy identification with me. Sometimes, we’d be at parties, and people would look only at me when they talked to us. (This is true hardly ever now…but of course, I don’t let people get away with it now, either.)
And, I couldn’t help but notice that my straight friends (except my closest friend, who rocked on gay issues) didn’t march for my rights, didn’t contribute money, didn’t testify at the courthouse hearings on marriage. Didn’t do anything except say, “Oh, good. Glad that’s happening for you guys.”
I started to get a bit of a resentment.
Historically, straight feminists were late to the party on lesbian issues, and vehemently opposed including our issues early on in the movement. Even though lesbians did SO MUCH FRIGGIN’ WORK in the movement. So much!
Then, in the 90’s, I walked in the back door of the men’s movement, and started a 2 decade march through men’s groups (I was the only woman). I heard men talk about their terror of appearing weak, of showing emotion…and it wasn’t only other men who earned their fear. It was the women in their lives, who wanted them to be strong. Women were and are as committed to the rigid definitions of male identity as men themselves. Women are, in fact, socialized to disdain the soft man.
Of course men don’t suffer the political and financial hardships that women and other minorities face. But they are not unaffected by the patriarchy. If the meaning of life is to be found in our relationships–to ourselves, to our loved others, to the world itself–men are hurt deeply.
They are not the enemy.
So, enter 2016, and the current political debate, which I find energizing, challenging, hopeful, stupid, connecting, mind-opening, numbing, and always, always, desperately needed.
But like I said, today I’m in a mood.
So, there’s Hillary Clinton. And I read about the great work she did as Secretary of State with women and girls, the way she met with women in every country she visited. The way she listened and cared, and wrote and gave the issues of women and girls her heart, her brilliant mind, all her commitment. I was more impressed by this than by anything about her.
And I find that I believe, as a result of that second link, that I think Hillary is for women and girls. But not this queer girl. I get thrown under the bus until political expediency lets her claim me after all.
And though I do believe she is truly for women and girls, she will compromise even her deepest commitment for political capital. That’s the Elizabeth Warren link. (Why isn’t SHE running for president?)
I’m also not a fan of what Hillary did in Libya, by the way, or the way she’s bought into the corporate interests, etc., etc., etc.
And here’s my mood: Since I’ve not yet met a single straight woman that has ever said, “It’s time for a lesbian president,” I’m really not feeling Hillary or the women who support her, because I get that their feminist vision doesn’t truly include me.
Unless, of course, I act like I’m not different.
My own feminism is this, “All people are equal.” Period. No one is more equal.
I have experienced gay bashing, sexual harassment at work, sexual targeting as a woman…and as a lesbian; sexual violence, I’ve been poor, I’ve faced sexism and homophobia in my own family, at work, and in the larger world. That doesn’t give me a pass on being a decent person, or on making moral choices. It does not allow me to betray my own values in compromises that will improve my career.
I would never make excuses for any person of any demographic, ethnicity, gender, etc. who compromises their morals and values for ambition. Those are just not my people.
So don’t ask me to excuse Hillary. As if she’s had it harder than me because she’s chosen to become a rich politician. I mean, seriously. My mood goes through the roof on this one. Like I don’t know the hardships of sexism?
I also think that if you have to compromise away your truest values to keep a job you better ask if the job is worth it or what’s going to be left of you by the time you get a chance to do the something big you once wanted to do…and now maybe are not even sure is possible.
I struggle to be emotionally neutral about Hillary Clinton so I can consider her policies, her thinking, her choices, her record. And no one makes this more difficult than Hillary supporters. Especially–and here’s my mood again–her supporters who have never worked for lesbian rights.
The bridge from liberal to ally is a long, long bridge. And the first step: admitting that liberal isn’t good enough.
In every blog I write with the I AM NOT A STRAIGHT GIRL title, I say this. I am not like you. I have never been like you. I don’t give support in the same style as you do, I don’t emote like you, I don’t have the same patterns of relating to the world…because I could genuinely give a rat’s ass about the male gaze (approval or erotic…not interested), because I don’t like to make nice, because when I am in all female straight environments (especially if they’re also all white), I feel like a complete freak. It’s lonely, and I feel terrifically invisible.
I know my straight liberal acquaintances have no idea I feel this way. They’re not allies yet. They don’t get it. I want to be safe, I want equal opportunities, I want health care, I want equal pay…aren’t we the same? Isn’t that enough?
Feminism in election year 2016 interests and appalls me. I see the long legacy of 2nd wave feminism with its blinkers for queer people. I see that Hillary Clinton divides women and what women believe about gender and sexism.
I believe we all wish we could vote for her, because of what women have suffered in inequality.
But she doesn’t stand for me.
Like so many feminists I know.
It’s a long journey from liberal to ally.
I can no longer stand with you on issues that barely affect my life when you don’t stand with me.
Want a lesbian president.
If for no other reason than that I am in a mood, and you might run into me in traffic.